Archive for the ‘Taxes’ Category

NEWS RELEASE: Planning Underway for Linn County’s FY21 Budget

November 8, 2019

For more information, contact:

Sara Bearrows

Budget Director

319-892-5115

sara.bearrows

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

November 8, 2019

Planning Underway for Linn County’s FY21 Budget

Public Budget Forum is 5 p.m. Nov. 19

LINN COUNTY, IA – November 8, 2019 – Planning is underway for Linn County’s fiscal year 2021 budget. The budget will be developed over the next two and a half months during a series of more than 20 public meetings between the Linn County Board of Supervisors, other Linn County elected officials, and department heads.

Linn County will hold its annual Public Budget Forum Tuesday, November 19 at 5 p.m. at the Linn County Public Service Center, 935 Second St. SW in Cedar Rapids. Residents are invited to attend the public forum to address the Board of Supervisors and provide comment on the development of Linn County’s fiscal year 2021 budget.

The meeting dates and times for all budget meetings will be posted on the Agendas & Minutes section of Linn County’s website at LinnCounty.org 24 hours in advance of the meetings.

A budget calendar for the entire FY21 budget process is available on the Linn County website. However, the dates are subject to change so please check the Agendas & Minutes section on Linn County’s website 24 hours in advance for the most up-to-date information or sign-up to receive email and/or text notification of Board of Supervisors meetings and agendas at LinnCounty.org/NotifyMe.

Fiscal year 2021 begins July 1, 2020 and ends June 30, 2021.

Linn County has successfully maintained its Aaa bond rating and has received the following awards from the Government Finance Officers Association for consistently exercising sound fiscal management and reporting:

  • Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting – 30 consecutive years
  • Distinguished Budget Presentation Award – 23 consecutive years
  • Outstanding Achievement in Popular Annual Financial Reporting – 21 consecutive years.

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Linn County debt skyrocketing to $68M

November 28, 2018

Today, during a four (4) minute meeting of the Linn County Board of Supervisors, the Board obligated County taxpayers to $8,330,000 in long term debt plus interest – see links at end.

According to the County’s Annual Report (6/28/2018) on EMMA, a website established to increase transparency in the municipal securities market, Linn County’s debt was $28,915,218 as of 6/30/2018 – see page 13.

Once the $8.33M is borrowed, the County’s long term debt will increase to about $37M in the fiscal year that ends 6/30/2019.  Add in an estimated $31.5M in long term debt for the Harris Building, and by December 2019 County taxpayers will be on the hook for over $68M in long term debt plus interest.

Couple that $68M with the Cedar Rapids School District plans to spend $224.2M and the City of Cedar Rapids plans to increase the City’s property tax levy by 22 cents for ten years, and it is no wonder some in this community are crying foul on the tax breaks given away to developers.  Maybe the City, the School District, and the Board should sit down and have a discussion about priorities versus the taxpayers ability to pay?  Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Linn County 2019A Revised Finance Plan Discussion

Linn County 2019B Revised Finance Plan Discussion

HrngSet BondSalesGOLandand WaterLegacyandGOCoBldgLinnCounty 634201-30-v1…

Follow-up: CR TIF overpayment reduced from $2.7M to $917K

November 27, 2018

On 9/30/2018, the Gazette reported that Linn County had overpaid the City of Cedar Rapids about $2.7M from tax increment financing funds. The City contended the amount of the overpayment was less than $2M and the attached worksheet indicates the overpayment has now been reduced to about $917K.

Cedar Rapids was able to find additional items to certify against the balances, which reduced the overpayment. Two of the areas are no longer negative. Of the seven areas that are now negative, five are fully expired by 06/30/2020. The remaining two are not expired.

Hopefully, everyone is more educated about TIFs and overpayments will not occur in the future. –Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Summary -Negative FY19 TIF’s – 12-1-18 Filing for FY2019-2020.pdf

Board approves quarter million dollars in raises

September 14, 2018

One of the purposes of this blog is to report on the news that local reporters fail to report. Why am I reporting on it? Linn County Human Resources was open about a Compensation Study being underway; however, on Monday (9-9-2018) the Linn County Board of Supervisors (BOS) did not discuss the raises they approved during their meeting that day – click on Payroll Authorizations when the video appears.

Seems like raises as high as $18,000 per year should have garnered a news story. Seems like approving $233,730 in raises when you only budgeted $100,000 for raises should have garnered a news story. Seems like the Board should have been transparent with the news media and specifically indicated on their meeting agenda that they were approving $233,730 in raises that would require a budget amendment later this month. But none of that happened.

I am a transparency advocate.

The aforementioned compensation study was transparent right up to the most critical point … and then the BOS failed to be transparent. The same Supervisor(s) who contacted the news media to report an error made 10 years ago in one County office that will now cost the County $18,000, should be the same Supervisor(s) to contact the news media and tell them they are about to approve $233,730 in raises, which is $133,730 more than the BOS budgeted. It’s called transparency.

The news media failed to report; and the BOS failed to dislose; and the taxpayers are on the hook for $233,730 – and few people know about it … until now. – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Board of Supervisors approved salary increases effective 9-9-2018 .pdf

2017-2018 Non-Bargaining Job Evaluation and Compensation Study Report Presentation – Linn County Iowa.pdf

Linn County Tax Levy rates and Property Tax Estimator online

July 24, 2018

The FY2018-2019 Tax Levy rates and the FY2019 Property Tax Estimator are now available from the Linn County Auditor’s Office at http://www.linncounty.org/358/Property-Tax-Services

The question is: Did your overall property tax burden increase or decrease compared to last year? Use the calculator to answer the question after reviewing last year’s check register. Joel D. Miller – Linn County

What do elections cost?

April 20, 2018

On April 3rd, elections were held for the City of Alburnett, the Alburnett School District, and the Mount Vernon School District. The overall cost per vote for the elections was $8.03 per vote – see attachment.

Per Code of Iowa section 47.3 paragraph 2: The county commissioner of elections shall certify to the county board of supervisors a statement of cost for an election. The cost shall be assessed by the county board of supervisors against the political subdivision for which the election was held.

As the data in the Statement indicates, the Office of Linn County Auditor cannot charge the cities and schools for 100% of the costs of an election, i.e., the Auditor’s Office absorbed about 25% of the costs for these elections.

Our Office has a vested interest in any election that occurs, which is why we work hard to increase voter turnout, which in turn lowers the cost per vote. So why not vote the next time you have chance? Paid for by Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Cost to taxpayers for this post = $0.oo

4-25 Statement of Election Costs 040318.pdf

Top secret: How many of our deceased were cremated?

January 30, 2018

How many cremation permits were signed by the Linn County Medical Examiner (ME) from 1/1/2017 – 12/31/2017? According to not one, but two assistant county attorneys, I have no legal remedy to find out.

Forget about Iowa’s Open Records laws (Code of Iowa Chapter 22) – medical examiner records are confidential public records. And forget about my power to audit – Code of Iowa section 331.502(41) – the fees the medical examiner receives for signing cremation permits have never been deposited into a county fund or account so there is no county fund or account to audit. This reminds of that greasy pig contest my 4-H club held in the 70s.

Earlier this month, I blogged about How much do cremation permits cost taxpayers? I wanted to know how much revenue is generated by the ME for signing cremation permits since the County’s taxpayers are ultimately paying this death tax. It seemed like a simple question. Unfortunately, the Board of Supervisors had little interest in knowing the answer.

I did not let it go.

Last week, I sent an open records request to our medical examiner – see attached. Today, I received a reply from an assistant county attorney – see attached. And now that I have reviewed a cremation permit form, I realize I don’t need and I don’t want all of the data on the form. But the ME could redact everything on the form except for the name of the decedent and a date, and I could count the number of signed permits to determine the fees he earned. Or at the very least, the ME could give me a notarized statement as to the number of cremation permits he signed in 2017.

Or the Board of Supervisors could order the ME to disclose the number of cremation permits he signed … or threaten to cancel his contract if he didn’t disclose the numbers. What are the odds of that happening?

So are the taxpayers of Linn County paying their ME $30K, $70K, or $100K per year for him to sign cremation permits? How many Linn County residents are being cremated per year? The answers to those questions are top secret until someone in a position of power asks them … and discloses the facts. And that’s not me. Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

Response from assistant county attorney on 1-26-2018 re Public records request for copies of signed cremation permits.pdf

Public records request to Dr Linder – ME dated 1-23-2018.pdf

County elected officials getting 3% raises

January 30, 2018

On 1/29/2018, the Linn County Compensation Board met, i.e., four of them attended in-person and three called into the meeting. After consideration of the documents received prior to the meeting (see mine below) and the comments at the meeting, the Board recommended a three percent (3%) increase for all elected officials. If the Compensation Board’s increase is approved by the Linn County Board of Supervisors, the following elected official salaries will go into effect on 7/1/2018:

Attorney – $176K – see Code of Iowa Chapter 331.751–331.759 et al for a description of the duties;

Sheriff – $152K – see Chapter 331.651–331.661 et al;

Recorder and Treasurer – $110K – see 331.601–331.611 et al and 331.551–331.559 et al, respectively; and

Supervisors and Auditor – $107K – see Chapter 331 et al and 331.501–331.512 et al, respectively.

Considering that the income in half the households in Linn County is $60,989 per year or less; and considering that the Attorney, Recorder, Treasurer, and all three Supervisor jobs are on the ballot in 2018; I would think the new salaries would spawn some competitive races in 2018. – Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor

From: Miller, Joel
Sent: Friday, January 26, 2018 3:17 PM
To: Linn County Compensation Board

Subject: Input from Auditor re Monday’s Compensation Board meeting

Chairman Stefani et al,

Last year, I requested no increase in the salary for the County Auditor. This year, I am requesting that the salary of the County Auditor be increased by $3, 116.66, and then increased by whatever percentage increase the Recorder and Treasurer are awarded.

What’s changed? Prior to running in the June 2016 primary election, I publicly announced that I would not be seeking another term as County Auditor after the 2016 elections. In November of 2016, I was re-elected as Auditor and the voters decided to reduce the number of County Supervisors from five to three. For several months, I have been ….

I may not … and I most definitely will not be the Auditor on 2 January 2021.

So what do you want in your next Auditor? Who do you hope to attract to run for Auditor? What will skills, experience, and education should they bring to the job? The salary you set for the Auditor now and in subsequent years will determine who the applicants are for the job.

Does the status quo continue, i.e., the applicant pool comes from existing deputy auditors and/or other county employees? Or do you want to attract non-employee applicants, e.g., applicants with law degrees, MBAs, or CPAs?

I have attached a Excel spreadsheet from the Iowa State Association of Counties which indicates the FY18 (current year) salaries for the Auditor, Recorder, and Treasurer. I have sorted the spreadsheet using the Auditor v Recorder column. You can also sort it using the Auditor v Treasurer column.

Until your meeting last year, the Comp Board was adamant that the Auditor, Recorder, and Treasurer must be paid the same. Now, the Linn County Auditor along with the Clayton County Auditor are paid less than their respective County Recorders and Treasurers. Two other Auditors, i.e., Winneshiek and Cass are paid less than their respective Treasurers.

Two counties have eliminated the Office of County Recorder, i.e., Marshall and Woodbury counties, and their respective Auditors earn $3,557 and $2,142 more than their respective Treasurers, which is not much considering the responsibilities that were added onto them as Auditors & Recorders.

The spreadsheet also indicates that 44 counties pay their Auditors more than Recorders; and 41 counties pay their Auditors more than Treasurers. One county indicated the Auditor was paid more because he is the Board’s budget coordinator. One indicated that the difference in pay goes back to 1981 and no one remembers the justification. Two indicated their counties relied upon compensation studies to justify the difference in salaries, but they did not have any current studies available to me.

Since your meeting last year, I have asked the Board of Supervisors to include the county elected officials in a compensation study that is currently underway. The Human Resources Director was against amending the contract and the Board sided with her.

Perhaps, next year, when you meet, the Board can provide you with a compensation study.

In the meantime and at the very least, I ask that you consider increasing the salary of the Auditor to match the ultimate salaries given to the Recorder and Treasurer. ###

Auditor v Recorder v Treasurer 1-23-2018.xls

NEWS RELEASE: Linn County Seeks Input on Website Redesign

January 25, 2018

For more information, contact:

Joi Alexander

Communications Director

(319) 892-5118

joi.alexander

For Immediate Release

January 25, 2018

Linn County Seeks Input on Website Redesign

LINN COUNTY, IA – January 25, 2018 – Linn County is preparing to redesign its website in 2018. As part of the process, Linn County is conducting a survey that seeks input from the public. The survey will help Linn County determine what type of information is most useful for residents and the community.

Gathering public input on the website redesign is part of Linn County’s Customer-Centered Culture work outlined in its strategic plan.

“Our goal with the website redesign is to create the best product possible for our customers,” said Linn County Communications Director Joi Alexander. “To help us reach this goal, we are encouraging the public to participate in the survey so we can know what’s important to them in terms of information they are seeking or functions they are trying to perform.”

The survey is available on the County’s website at www.linncounty.org. The survey will be open through February 28, 2018.

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How much do cremation permits cost taxpayers?

January 8, 2018

Who signs an agreement without knowing the cost to the taxpayers? Answer: The Linn County Board of Supervisors (BOS). In fact, this is the second time in less than a week that the BOS has signed an agreement without knowing the cost of the agreement.

Today (1/8/2018), the BOS approved/signed the Linn County Medical Examiners (ME) Agreement. Among various fees the ME receives, the ME also charges up to $75 for signing cremation permits. If your family is going to cremate your body in Linn County, they have to obtain a permit signed by the ME before your body can be cremated.

In my role as advocate for the taxpayers, I wanted to know how much revenue is generated by the ME for signing cremation permits since the County’s taxpayers are ultimately paying this death tax.

Response from the BOS? Praise for the ME and criticism of the County Auditor, but no answer to the question: How much do cremation permits cost the County’s taxpayers?

I estimate that cremation permits cost the County’s taxpayers $70K or more per year.

How did I come up with $70K? According to the Gazette, there were 163 obituaries in Linn County in December of 2017. Multiply 163 by 12 (months) by 50% (percentage of final arrangements ending in cremation) by $75 (cost per cremation permit) equals $73,350. Or take the number of deaths in Iowa in 2015 and multiply it (29,600) by 7% (Linn County’s population as a percentage of Iowa’s population) by 50% (see preceding) by $75 (see preceding) equals $77,700.

In my role as County Auditor, I am questioning why the revenue generated by the ME’s signing of cremation permits is not flowing into the County’s general fund in the same manner as the revenues generated by the County’s other departments?

The BOS should have been able to answer my questions. Or did campaign contributions once again influence their behavior? -Joel D. Miller – Linn County Auditor


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